When I graduated from university, I had an big case of wanderlust. I wanted to live abroad before hitting reality. I looked into my options and came across an organization called BUNAC. It’s a work/volunteer program that specializes in helping students 18 and over to get set up overseas with a work permit and live overseas for an extended time.
At the time, I wanted to live in England. I took a few months between graduation and took a few graduate school entrant exams. Then I took off. I spent a few weeks in Greece and Italy on the way, where I had never been, and got myself to London in time for the six month program to begin.
First I stayed with an old friend while I got myself set up with a flat and job. BUNAC sponsored a get together one in night in Central London, so I went and met a few people, two of whom became my London flat-mates. The three of us found a flat in Highbury, Islington, run by Nick, an American expat and his family. We took the top floor flat. Highbury is a great part of London. We were near the Tube and very close to Islington’s High Street.
The three of us ran around London, exploring museums, going to real theatre (with legends like Maggie Smith), drinking at pubs, seeing all my favorite 80’s bands live (Adam Ant, Nick Heyward, Chris Isaac, to name a few) and exploring London’s gastronomy (which was hard since I was a vegetarian at the time). I had a few jobs that year. I worked in a hotel, a pub, a financial firm and a movie theater. It wasn’t so much the job that mattered, it was the experience of living abroad. I met a lot of interesting people. I traveled on weekends all over England. I went backpacking all over Europe at the end of my stay and had experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world.
BUNAC now offers opportunities that range from the popular camp counseling program, Summer Camp USA, and flexible work and travel programs in Canada, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand to volunteering/teaching placements in Africa, South and Central America, South East Asia and, new for this year, China. Programs last from as little as five weeks to as long as two whole years. Participants can take part in a BUNAC program as part of their summer vacation, during a gap year, after graduation or as a career break.
I highly recommend the program for you or if have a child of your own looking to see a bit of the world.